Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

  • Pandemic growth: Conficker infections detected; total of affected systems is unknown (chart, inset).
    Source: Conficker Working Group
  • Intelligent Machines

    Planetary Pestilence

    The Conficker worm was first released in November 2008 and later followed up by increasingly sophisticated variants. Targeting a vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows operating system, the worm can spread by means of networks and USB flash drives. Millions of computers were rapidly infected; this map from security firm Team Cymru shows a snapshot of detected infections in January 2009. Since then, Conficker has proved difficult to eradicate. Its resilience is due in part to its ability to disable antivirus software, block users from accessing the websites of security vendors to get new software, and download encrypted updates designed to defeat counter­measures against previous versions of Conficker. Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for the identities of the worm’s creators.

    More from Intelligent Machines

    Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

    Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
    • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

      6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

      10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

      Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

      Ad-free website experience

      The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

      The MIT Technology Review App

    • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

      Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

      The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    /3
    You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.